Bold & Durable Authenticity:

 How Today’s Veneer Beats TFL in Case Goods Manufacturing

Veneers are beautiful and tough, and project a brand authenticity TFL products can’t possibly match. A new breed of manufacturer is dedicated to making them a paradigm of affordability in the industry.

Today, thermally-fused laminate—TFL, for short—dominates the U.S. marketplace for available ready-made case goods products. While most people agree that veneer finishes look better, and cast a hotel in a much more favorable light, the low cost of TFL finishing has been hard to beat.

If it were not for considerations of cost, however, most managers and owners would elect veneer finished case goods. But what if the cost difference was shown to be negligible—in fact, what if the presence of veneer case goods contributed to greater return business, leading the difference to favor veneer over TFL? And what if new coating processes produced veneer-finished case goods of comparable or greater durability than TFL case goods?

Today’s veneers, constructed to high standards in overseas factories operated by a new breed of manufacturer, offer extraordinary durability and the visual and tactile appeal of real wood, all at prices that are on par with U.S.-made TFL case goods. They’re constructed to the highest standards in the business, and they are built to withstand the rigors of the guest room use case.

Most importantly, veneer-finished case goods project a bold & durable authenticity, the brand personality that impresses guests the first time, and brings them back the next. They tell your guests that you’ve put thought and care into every decision you make on behalf of their satisfaction.

So what’s the difference between veneer and TFL finishing?

Although they’re both ornamental finishes, TFL and veneer manufacturing processes are very different. And they both have their better use cases, and some use cases that leave them at a disadvantage. Let’s take quick look at each in turn.

TFL is an acronym for ‘thermally fused laminate’—but what exactly is that? Well, put simply, a thermo-fused laminate product is a piece of paper printed with a computer-generated representation of wood grain that is adhered, using intense heat, to a particle board base. TFL  gained considerable traction as a less-expensive case goods finishing option during the 1960s, because it was very inexpensive to produce. At that time, it was known as ‘thermally fused melamine’.

A veneer, on the other hand, is a thin slice of wood—usually highly figured—that is glued to a plain piece of wood for decorative purposes. Like TFL, it is usually associated with cost-effectiveness, but the history of veneer tells a different story. Hand-cut veneer has been around for thousands of years, but came into its own in the hands of highly respected European craftspeople during the Renaissance. In the 18th century, the famous woodworker Thomas Chippendale finished many of his pieces with veneer. Machined veneers came to prominence during the industrial revolution, and this production method continues to inform modern-day manufacturing.

But don’t today’s TFL case goods look every bit as attractive as veneer-finished case goods?

Sophisticated modern manufacturing techniques have produced some very good TFL products. Today’s TFL is tougher than it used to be, and its look can be quite convincing.

However, TFL still appears fairly artificial, a ‘close enough’ approximation to real wood that’s fine for office cubicles and lower-end furniture, but lacks the depth of veneer. And hotels need a more authentic look to impress today’s guests, who are very discerning when it comes to critical thinking about brands.

Many hotels, motels and inns continue to select TFL because it is less expensive, and because it is regarded as more durable, making the mistake of placing the look of their case goods low down on their list of priorities. But today’s veneers offer a look that is indistinguishable from real wood grain and figuring. They offer the ‘natural’ look, and they offer it in a durable package.

A piece of paper simply can’t represent the depth of wood grain accurately, so TFL simply can’t appear as 3-dimensional as veneer. Veneers, for their part, may be more expensive, but they are also…

  • More durable than ever;
  • Very natural in appearance; and
  • More appealing to the contemporary guest.

Well, aren’t TFL case goods tougher than veneer-finished case goods?

Don’t TFL case goods last longer? This is a common question posed by hoteliers and managers generally, and an essential one for those hoteliers and managers who operate mid-priced or budget hotels, motels and inns.

The easy answer is this: not when contemporary finishing processes are factored into the equation.

In the past, veneer case goods were considered more fragile than TFL case goods. Their surfaces were more easily gouged, chipped and scratched, and they were more prone to surface/base separation than TFL products.

This is no longer true. Contemporary advances in finishing have left veneer-finished case goods every bit as resilient as TFL case goods, and every bit as ready to sustain their beauty in a high-impact industry use case like the guest room.

Proprietary processes—like ‘7-step finishing’ used by Woodcraft Hospitality—have changed the durability profile of veneer-finished case goods. These case goods are tough and hard-wearing, and have a longevity that stands up to or surpasses TFL. The 7 stages to complete these veneer-finished case goods are:

  • Equalizing
  • Staining
  • Wash Coating
  • Glazing
  • Sealing
  • Tinting & Shading
  • Lacquering

A thicker veneer is used in this process to aid the durability of these new case goods, and enhance their beauty. And, in the final stage, a transparent film is affixed to the material, dramatically extending its longevity.

When you consider the authenticity and visual depth of veneer case goods, and the hard-wearing substance of such a carefully designed, proprietary manufacturing technique, the old arguments that favor TFL become far less persuasive…revealing TFL for what it is: just paper on particle board.

Final thoughts…

TFL case goods have long been considered the more cost-effective and durable choice for most hotel, motel, and inn owners and managers. But the veneer-finished case goods being produced today by a select group of specialist case goods manufacturers have changed the paradigm.

These new veneer case goods are as durable, or more durable, than the TFL case goods that have long been the standard for budget and middle-range businesses and chains. They are produced overseas but designed by industry experts, keeping costs down and quality high.

These new veneer-finished case goods give hotel, motel and inn owners and managers the opportunity to raise their brand’s profile, and they improve the ‘luxury perception’ of their guests. They introduce the warm, natural overtones that help a hotel, motel or inn persona to achieve the complexity and substance that is far more meaningful to guests.

Veneer-finished case goods tell guests that they matter in ways that TFL case goods simply cannot. They project a bold & durable authenticity that impresses patrons every time, and associates hospitality brands with the extraordinary perceived value that generates resilient consumer-brand identification.